MLB DEEP DIVE – 8/12/17
Carlos Martinez is expensive again after a good start against the Royals. He is facing a Braves team that has given trouble to plenty of quality pitchers over the course of the season and that does not have a lot of strikeouts in the lineup. In addition, they have a lot of left-handed hitters, which is Martinez’s biggest weakness. Martinez is a fade for me on this slate.
Aaron Nola has been excellent over the last month-plus, striking out 28.2 percent of hitters that he has faced with a 3.25 xFIP and just 0.4 home runs per nine innings allowed. He will face a Mets team tonight that no longer has Jay Bruce or Lucas Duda in the lineup. Nola has been effective against hitters from both sides of the plate this season, but he will benefit if there are more righties than lefties in the lineup for the Mets as he has struck out just over 22 percent of left-handed hitters since the start of July, compared to 33 percent of right-handed hitters. Either way, this is a good matchup for Nola.
Hyun-Jin Ryu has been excellent for the Dodgers this season, striking out 23.4 percent of hitters while recording a 12.1 percent swinging strike percentage and 32.7 percent o-swing percentage. He has been especially good against righties, striking out 25.1 percent compared to 19.3 percent of lefties. Most of the San Diego lineup is comprised of high-strikeout righties, so this is a matchup where we should expect Ryu to excel. In his last three starts, all in tougher strikeout matchups against the Twins, Giants and Mets, Ryu has produced swinging strike percentages of 11.4, 15.3 and 12.5 percent. He may go a bit underowned since he does not have the name value of Aaron Nola or Carlos Martinez, but he is my favorite pitcher of the three.
Dylan Bundy has had two huge outings in a row against the Royals and the Angels. He has been very good against right-handed hitters all season long, striking out 24.2 percent with a .295 xwOBA against. He has also increased his upside against lefties over the last month-plus, however, striking out 20.0 percent with a .339 xwOBA allowed compared to his season-long 14.3 percent strikeout percentage and .351 xwOBA. He is still vulnerable to the home run to lefties, allowing 2.3 per nine innings over that span, but the increased strikeout upside is nice to see. Tonight, he faces an Oakland team that has plenty of strikeouts up and down the lineup as we saw last night when Ubaldo Jimenez struck out 11 hitters in 5.2 innings of work. Oakland will most likely have a balanced lineup tonight, but Bundy is a strong play despite the lefties because his strikeout stuff has been so good lately and he receives a big ballpark upgrade pitching in Oakland.
Sean Manaea is coming off a couple tough performances against the Angels and the Giants and his swinging strike percentage has been lower than his season average in nine consecutive games. On the plus side, his swinging strike percentage topped 10 percent in two of his last three starts after not being greater than 9 percent in the previous four. There is no glaring reason for why Manaea’s numbers are down- at least as far as I can tell. He is throwing his slider a lower percentage of the time, but the movement and velocity is about the same and the xwOBA allowed against the pitch is virtually the same as it has been all season long. There is certainly the possibility that his numbers are down simply because he has had a lot of tough matchups, but he has had brutal matchups all season long so it seems relatively unlikely that is the sole reason. Manaea is cheap across the industry, sitting at $6,200 on DraftKings, $7,200 on Fanduel and $12,400 on FantasyDraft. He is facing an Orioles team that has been below average against left-handed pitching this season, with a .310 wOBA, 90 wRC+, .159 ISO and 24.3 percent strikeout percentage. At a cheap price tag, there is a ton of appeal in rostering Manaea in tournaments tonight because this is one of his better strikeout matchups of the season. Still, his recent results should be at least a little cause for concern.
Travis Shaw faces Scott Feldman in Miller Park in Feldman’s first game back from the disabled list. Feldman has struggled with left-handed power this season, allowing just over 1.5 home runs per nine innings. Shaw has, relatively quietly, been an elite hitter this season- posting a .370 xwOBA and .265 ISO against right-handed pitching.
Nolan Arenado faces Justin Nicolino in Miami. Nicolino, who the Marlins chose to acquire instead of Noah Syndergaard several years ago, is terrible. He does not get strikeouts and he has allowed nearly 1.8 home runs per nine innings to right-handed hitters this season. While people sometimes shy away from the Rockies outside of Coors Field, Arenado has a .441 xwOBA and .370 ISO against left-handed pitching away from Colorado this season.
Dexter Fowler has underperformed his metrics seemingly all season long, but he has finally begun to turn things around since returning from the disabled list. He has a .371 xwOBA and .250 ISO against righties this season and he will face rooke right-hander Lucas Sims tonight in St. Louis. Sims has allowed a 54.5 percent flyball percentage to lefties in his first two big league starts and he had a flyball problem in the minor leagues as well. Fowler is in a very nice spot tonight against Sims.
Freddie Freeman is facing a pitcher. That is about all that it takes to make Freeman a strong play. Add in that the pitcher is right-handed, has struggled with left-handed power for years (including allowing 1.6 home runs per nine innings this season), and that Freeman is priced down because of Martinez’s name value and you get an elite hitting option at a reduced price tag.
Cody Bellinger seems to have made whatever adjustments he needed to to get himself out of the slump that he was in around the All-Star break. Tonight, he will face right-handed starter Jhoulys Chacin. Chacin is absolutely elite against right-handed hitters, but struggles against hitters from the left side of the plate- though he has been improving. Still, Chacin has a low strikeout rate to lefties and Bellinger has a .379 ISO against right-handed pitching. He is always a top play when he is facing someone who will pitch to contact.
Matt Olson homered off Ubaldo Jimenez last night and gets another nice spot tonight against Dylan Bundy. While Bundy has been very good against right-handed hitters all season long, he has allowed nearly 1.5 homers per nine innings to lefties. Since the start of July, when Bundy began increasing his strikeout numbers against lefties, he has allowed 2.3 home runs per nine innings to lefties. Olson is very capable of striking out three times and hitting a home run if he were to get four at-bats against Bundy tonight. At a near minimum price tag, that is more than enough.
Luis Valbuena is having a down season but is almost the minimum price across the industry. He is facing Erasmo Ramirez of the Mariners, who allowed 2.7 home runs per nine innings to lefties so far this season and who has allowed a .371 xwOBA to lefties since the start of last season. His 20.3 percent strikeout percentage against lefties is about average. Valbuena is not a safe play since he struggles to make contact, but the power upside is certainly there if you need a cheap corner infield option in tournaments.
Robinson Cano is way too cheap on DraftKings and FantasyDraft in a prime matchup against J.C. Ramirez. Ramirez has allowed over 2 home runs per nine innings with a strikeout percentage barely over 17 percent against lefties this season. Cano has a .389 xwOBA and .225 ISO against right-handed pitching this season. He makes for a clear top option at second base, or just a value bat on FantasyDraft where you do not need a second baseman.
Kansas City Royals- It is very rare that the Royals are one of my top stacks of the night but that is what happens when you get a park boost and face James Shields. Shields has been okay against righties this season, but has really struggled with lefties as he has allowed a .405 xwOBA and 3.95 home runs per nine innings. That does not bode well for someone who is going to have to face a middle of the order consisting of Hosmer, Melky Cabrera, Moustakas and Moss. The White Sox also have the worst bullpen in baseball so, if the Royals can knock Shields out early, they could explode throughout the game.
Milwaukee Brewers- Scott Feldman has been decent against right-handed hitters this season, but this is his first start off the disabled list and he is going to be facing a very powerful Brewers lineup. Feldman has struggled at holding runners throughout his career and, along with home run power, most of this Milwaukee lineup can steal bases. The Reds also had to overuse their bullpen in last night’s game, so they are thin on available arms. This has the makings of a very high-upside game for the Brewers.
Houston Astros- The Astros are in Texas and they are facing Tyson Ross in his first game back from the disabled list. He has allowed a .406 wOBA with 1.76 home runs per nine innings to right-handed hitters in his time in the Majors this season and he is also very bad at holding baserunners. Hitters like Springer, Altuve, Bregman, Gonzalez and Fisher all have huge upside as they can hit a home run and swipe a bag. Do not be afraid to roster anyone else in this lineup, either, as they all have plenty of home run upside against Ross and the Texas pen.